“Take up your cross and follow me.” –Jesus
In this week’s Gospel reading (Mark 8.27-38) Jesus makes one of the most famous statements of his whole ministry. After Peter has acknowledged Jesus as the Messiah, a first for the disciples, Jesus goes on to command his disciples (i.e. us) to take up our cross and follow him. I fear that this sayings is glossed over, or worse domesticated, and that the freeing power of this statement is all too frequently lost.
What does it mean to take up our cross? The Roman cross was a visible sign of Rome’s tyranny to all who would stand against them and their ruling power. It was a method of execution that was reserved for insurrectionists and those who denied Roman authority in the world. Taking up the cross is not an action of humility or the acceptance of things the way they are. It is a direction contravention of the ruling wisdom of a society. The cross is a denial of the status quo. Jesus took one look at the Roman world and the way it twisted people’s relationships to each other, the created order, and even to themselves and called for the whole thing to be turned over and then told those who would follow after him to do the same.
How shall we pick up our cross? How shall we stand against the prevailing wisdom of this age and turn the world upside down? When we hear the world say “No” to God’s promise for the world, what are we willing to risk to bring the Good News of God’s “Yes” to those who need to hear it, for Jesus says to us “For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life?Indeed, what can they give in return for their life?”
I don’t have an answer, but I don’t actually think there is one answer for all time and forever. I think the answer is new every morning for each of us individually and in our Christian communities. I do know, though, that this is the fundamental question we must wrestle with in our life in Christ and I pray the grace of God to continue to wrestle with it.